Glaucoma Specialist Named Head of Ophthalmology at UIC

Dr. Rohit Varma, a leading eye specialist and epidemiologist at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, has been named head of ophthalmology and visual sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine, pending approval by the UI Board of Trustees.

At USC, Varma was professor of ophthalmology and preventive medicine and director of the glaucoma service, ocular epidemiology center and the clinical trials unit at the Doheny Eye Institute. At UIC, he will be associate dean for strategic planning in addition to heading the ophthalmology and visual sciences department.

“Leading this department presents a real opportunity to provide the highest quality of care to our diverse patient population,” Varma said. He said he plans to consider adding more satellite offices to extend the reach of the department and build the clinical enterprise.

Varma’s research interests include epidemiologic studies of eye disease in minority children and adults. He is principal investigator on three NIH-funded, community-based studies and on studies funded by the World Health Organization to assess the prevalence and socioeconomic burden of near-vision impairment.

“Dr. Varma is a highly accomplished physician-scientist and translational investigator who has dedicated his career to studying the development of eye diseases in minority populations and to examining novel biological, genetic and lifestyle factors related to the risk of developing eye diseases,” said Dr. Dimitri Azar, dean of the UIC College of Medicine and B.A. Field Professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences. “I am confident that Dr. Varma will lead our department of ophthalmology and visual sciences into a new era of clinical and research excellence.”

In addition to his interest in the burden of eye disease on minority and disadvantaged populations, Varma is an expert on changes in the optic nerve in glaucoma and on new imaging techniques in the early diagnosis of glaucoma-related optic nerve damage. More recently, he has been involved in the development of novel implantable intraocular pressure sensors and drainage devices.

Varma completed his ophthalmology residency at the Wilmer Ophthalmological Institute at Johns Hopkins Hospital and glaucoma fellowships at the Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia and at USC’s Doheny Eye Institute. He also earned a master’s in public health from Johns Hopkins University.

He has published more than 190 papers in peer-reviewed journals, edited two books, and presented more than 200 abstracts at national and international academic meetings. He serves on the editorial board of Ophthalmology, the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Previously, he served as a member of the board of scientific counselors of the National Eye Institute, the National Eye Health education program planning committee, and the NIH anterior eye diseases study section.

Varma has received many honors and awards, including the Research to Prevent Blindness Career Development and Sybil B. Harrington Scholar awards, the American Academy of Ophthalmology Senior Achievement Award, the Glaucoma Research Foundation President’s Award, and the ARVO Fellow Silver Award. He is a member of several national and international ophthalmological organizations and currently serves as the chair of the American Academy of Ophthalmology public health committee.

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